An apology to Brown Pundits

My quick Election 2019 reaction article “The rock that broke liberalism” in the local English daily Dhaka Tribune seemed to have blown up in social media. As I woke up this morning, the article has nearly 9000 shares and still growing by the hour. Most probably the blow-up happened because some prominent Indian media personality with lot of followers shared the article.

I want to apologize here to BP and also to Omar Ali bhai for not mentioning Brown Pundits or his his name directly. Althought by mentioning the key words in the BP 2016 article and also the thesis question, I made it very easy to find the article with minimum enterprise through Google search (Links at the end). I wrote the article with Bangladeshi audience in mind, I did not expect it to go ‘international’. Thus I unintentionally deprived Brown Pundits from some desereved publicity and Omar Ali bhai from due direct recognition.

The reason why I was shy about mentioning Brown Pundits is that I wanted to keep my column writing profile in Bangladesh and occasional Brown Pundits contributor and commenter seperate. Firstly, I regard BP as a forum where one can freely speak their minds about sensitive issues (very unwise I know. In internet nothing is safely hidden and everything is permanent). Secondly, as a Bangladeshi who wishes to travel to home country regularly, speaking freely about sensitive issue is a very ill-advised for me. Thus my reluctance to let my contributions/ comments in BP be known among home-circles.

This is the dilemmna of the era for us. We want to talk, yes just talk, debate, analyze, about issues that interest us but there are great number of people from all sides for whom talking freely is the biggest existential threat in the world. Of course Razib is a prime example of the reality of the threat. Awarded NYTimes op-ed contributor just for a day because the internet outrage mob mobilized in milliseconds.

Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?


18 thoughts on “An apology to Brown Pundits”

  1. I thought the essay was great. I was originally skeptical of Dr. Ali’s thesis (and I told him that) but more and more, I think there’s something to it. Will elaborate my thoughts later.

  2. In a way that post was my introduction to brown pundits. I still remember the old design and all ??

  3. (Start of elaborations. WARNING: this will be controversial.)

    What changed my mind on Dr. Ali’s post was thinking about something grossly unrelated to Islam: American race relations. I still remember the heady days of 2008, when we elected Obama and we expected “hope and change,” and a great thrust towards American racial harmony.

    It’s now a decade later, discourse on race is more dogmatic and vitriolic than before, and we have mainstream politicians talking about reparations, which would have been unthinkable in 2008. Yet what no serious observer thinks will happen is that Blacks will be assimilated into the American mainstream.

    What we have also seen is the demise of race-blind left-liberalism as an ideology. The failure to integrate Blacks into American society exposed the ideology as a sham. To borrow from Dr. Ali, Blacks were the rock on which American liberalism broke.

    The ideology still has adherents on the popular level, but the Lefty chattering classes have moved on to more strident successor ideologies. The NRO Right may pay lip service to race-blind liberalism, but everyone else is also moving on.

    I think you’ll have something similar with Islam: the (general) Muslim intransigence and refusal to embrace liberalism will mean that people will give up liberalism and move on to successor ideologies. Some of those successors will involve a lot more tribalism and communitarianism than we’re used to.

    1. Would you be interested in BP interviewing Glenn Loury, Kmele Foster or John McWhorter?

      Many American caucasians now insult popular black leaders, calling them “coons”, “uncle toms”, “white supremacists”, “racists”, “bigots” etc.

      The challenge is that multi-generational American blacks use to do academically and socio-economically better relative to other Americans in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s than in 2019.

      Why do you think this is? How can this be reversed?

      1. the problem is that most of us agree too much with these people. thomas chatterton williams, who i interviewed, runs with that crew and is on the same wavelength.

        kmele is interesting when he pushes his anarcho-libertarianism.

        1. I don’t think we are ready to interview them yet.

          I think that it would be good to write some posts about the American education system, post modernism, colonization of the mind . . . close correlations between what is happening in the US and India (Indian blacks being OBCs, STs, SCs and Sunnis). The dangers of India falling into the upper middle income country trap. The danger of India having large numbers of people with inferiority complex, lack of self confidence, post modernist prism, anti education attitude.

          These are all major challenges with large segments of India’s population. It does not make a big difference yet because India still has plenty of poor people with good physical health, mental health and intelligence who can prosper with a little education. When India runs out of lower income people with physical health, mental health and intelligence . . . how will India avoid the upper middle income trap?

          Modi’s proposed solution to the upper middle income trap is promoting Yoga, exercise, stretching, breathing across all Indian schools.

          India has a growing problem with rotten tertiary college institutions. {Elites are excellent. Secondaries are okay. Tertiary colleges are awful.} India’s education system and 10th standard exam were designed to identify India’s talented tenth (as W. E. B. Du Bois would put it). India’s 1-10 standard education is not designed to increase the physical health, mental health, intelligence and human capital of the bottom 80% of Indians. India’s 1-10 education system does not encourage critical thinking, problem solving, creativity. India’s education system has a larger challenge with marxism and post modernism than America’s education system has. India’s education system continues to become more and more marxist/post modernist.

          India also has a growing crisis in non socio-economic based affirmative action. In many ways caste is worse than in 1951 because of affirmative action and the way it is written into the constitutions. Many Jatis no longer want to become a forward castes (loosely translates into Vaishya, Kshatriya, Brahmin but not really because these don’t really exist anymore) because of affirmative action.

          Another major issue is that OBCs, SCs and STs that become Brahmin or twice born (sacred thread) do not want to become de jure forward cast because they will loose their affirmative action.

          After discussing these things, Glenn could be asked for his perspectives. I think Glenn could offer valuable advise for India. Glenn has visited India at length.

          How can India avoid the equivalent of the relative socio-economic regression of multi-generational black Americans after the 1960s? Please note that all the below refer to multi-generational black Americans.

          Before 1970 geeks and nerds were respected by black American kids based on the research of John McWhorter and Thomas Sowell. Afterwards geeks and nerds became vilified and bullied. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s divorce and out of wedlock births were rare among black Americans. Between 1960 and 1970 violent crimes committed by black Americans rose 71% based on the research of Thomas Sowell. Violent crime committed by blacks rose much further after 1970. Black American kids did much better academically relative to other Americans in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s compared to now.

          How can India avoid a similar regression of some Indian minorities?

          How can India improve intelligence, mental health and physical health?

          How can India avoid post modernists further reducing Indian freedom of art and thought?

          How can Indians avoid being labelled as white supremacist, racist, nazi, sectarian, exploitative, hegemonic, imperialistic, oppressive, Islamaphobic etc.

          How can successful Indian Americans avoid a xenophobic backlash driven by jealous Americans?

  4. I have to confess but I have strong, fundamental disagreements with Omar bhai’s piece. Or put it another way, I agree with it only if the use of the phrase “liberal order” is specific to the post-colonial conceptions of liberals with white guilt and other moral relativist pathologies that are indeed the titanic to Islam’s iceberg. But that is a parochial understanding of liberalism, more fad than philosophy.

    There’s another sense in which liberalism is more universal and not defined in colonial / post-colonial or geographic global south / global north or colour-indexed or gender-indexed or any other “intersectional” terms. That universal epistemology is not going to peter out so easily due to Islamist or other dogma.

    1. The white guilt and relativism and other crap are not features of liberalism, they’re an indication of the liberal failure to handle Islam.

      Similar to how the successor ideologies to American race-blind liberalism (social justice, progressivism) are a result of liberalism’s failure to assimilate Blacks.

      1. Put another way:

        We start with liberalism. Individualism, secularism, liberty rights, all the good stuff, and everything is hunky dory! There are some minor differences in the church, but nothing earth-shattering.

        Then the church runs into heathens. They could be Blacks, Islam, Mormons, etc. But for whatever reason, they’re not on board with the whole liberal project.

        So liberalism changes a bit to accommodate them. It alters some policies. Its doctrines add epicycles. And this works a bit. But not enough.

        So then the liberals turn into Santayana’s fanatics, redoubling their efforts to accommodate minorities while slowly forgetting liberalism altogether. If you want to see the end result of this, look at our Vox vs. Quillette internet wars. Look at Ta-Nehisi Coates and his hordes of admirers, whose ideology (if it can be called that) is more black revanchism rather than anything resembling the Anglo-American liberal worldview.

        As liberalism loses its hold on the Left, it also loses its influence on the Right. Soon we’ll see where we go from here.

    2. Trying to figure out what Liberalism “REALLY” is or what a True Liberal ™ is or should be is to fight a war in semantic-land. It is no different from when a serious young lady tries to tell you the dictionary meaning of Feminism ™ or an angry bearded dude (or a mild bespectacled person) tries to define what a Real Muslim is or isn’t.

      Liberalism should be defined by what the large majority of self-designated liberals believe in. Today that seems to consist of identity politics and a hierarchy of more-oppressed-than-thou mobs.

      1. I’m not trying to figure out what “liberalism” really is. I don’t even care for the term or the associated -ism.

        My point was whatever the Western consensus engendered – social and political organization of a certain kind, a national social contract, individualism, rule of law, public morality etc – which typically gets sold under the label of “liberalism” has some universality. But that is ill-understood by its own proponents. It is like a inept physics teacher trying to explain how a train works without a full understanding of the basics of thermodynamics and mechanics.

        The universality that the West almost stumbled across, as a result of trying to solve a set of social/political problems specific to its history and geography, is poorly understood. A result of that lack of understanding has been both under-appreciation of its importance (horses are better than trains) and slapdash over-application of the model (trains prone to over-speeding and derailing) depending on whom you ask.

        But certain universal features indeed do exist and, therefore, are replicable across cultures. E.g. the (im)morality of owning other human beings, the solution to (rather re-framing of) the Platonic who should rule problem, the morality of information/knowledge access (universal literacy being its corollary), the ethics of suffering (universal healthcare being its corollary) etc. Note that none of these implementations are perfect, and never will be, even within the best Western society. The point is whether people across the world and cultures naturally/easily accept the principle of their application.

  5. // So liberalism changes a bit to accommodate them //

    Exactly. Not the hard to vary, parsimonious and falsifiable (cf Popper-compliant) abstraction that I am talking about, which is deeper and more universal in application.

    It only goes to show that even the West has not completely grasped why the West became so successful in the first place, and they have trouble replicating it with Muslims and others. Not surprising. Abstracting simple rules from emergent phenomena is a terribly hard exercise.

    However, without explicitly knowing it / intending to Western institutions / systems have been replicated in non-Western societies. Most of such systems are technological (easiest to replicate), but some are moral and political too. But just because one has a child, it doesn’t mean the child agrees.

    1. It only goes to show that even the West has not completely grasped why the West became so successful in the first place

      The West became successful by scaling family- and clan-based trust to a nation-based trust. That process of transformation was not “liberal”, though Westerners don’t easily remember that (not sure if this is what you were referring to.) Liberalism was just the compact forged at the culmination of this process to incorporate dissenters, who nonetheless had to follow the same liberal code the majority was willing to subscribe to. My view is that Catholic immigrants were forced to become liberal in 19th century America; assimilation to the liberal code was the price of acceptance into mainstream society. I believe the same was demanded of Muslim immigrants a generation ago, which is why America hasn’t had any trouble with its local Muslim population, but with the mania for multicultural diversity in the current century, those demands are probably not being made any more.

      So, long post short, I don’t think it’s liberalism that has hit a wall but rather insecurities and self-guilt within Western societies that have broken the liberal project.

  6. Great discussion! One problem with using the liberal word is that this has so many different meaning and it encompasses very different concepts under the same umbrella term. By demise of liberal order we can agree to mean either the international trade and political arbitration regime upheld since WW2 (under American preponderance) or the animating idea that democracy, supremacy of individual, free debate are the best ways to govern society for all people.

    We can debate for days what caused the great Western divergence in politics and economy from 18th to 20th century whether liberal ideas or destruction of smaller social units due to evolutionay pressure of constant warfare between polities, or something else. More important for now is the question, what is causing the current crisis in confidence within liberalism?

  7. I just wanted to say that I absolutely did NOT mind that my name or our blog were not mentioned… I was actually happy that it was not mentioned (though as you say, it was easy enough to Google).

    Slapstik, I did write in a postscript:
    “Finally, I remain convinced that this is not the end. It is just another turn of the spiral. The enlightenment will be back. Ideologies not centered on man, on this world, on rationality, on empiricism, will not take over the world. But the mess of 2032 will be a topic of study. And the role of Islam in undermining confidence in the first matrix will be a topic of study.”

    I am inclined to think that most human ideas take time to settle in and may go through cycles of “failure” followed by revision, improvement and reassertion.. hence the reference to the “first matrix” . Liberalism (like the robots in Westworld) probably just needs more time 🙂

    1. @Omar
      On the cycles of failure I couldn’t agree more. The iterative nature is almost inbuilt in doing something genuinely useful.

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